A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Director Todd Haynes says his film "explores one of the great talents of the human species: Our colossal refusal to look at ourselves." Curiosity is a theme.
Positive Role Models
Gracie is loving and nurturing but also fragile and somewhat self-delusional. Elizabeth is very curious, but in some ways dangerously so. On the verge of being an empty-nester, Joe is kind and a loving father to his kids and a supportive spouse, but he's also flawed, making poor decisions. Gracie and Joe have a caring support system on Tybee Island, who see them beyond their scandalous relationship.
This woman-centered story was written by a woman, but it's not a particularly positive representation of women, and there's not much here that illuminates a genuine female experience. Joe, his dad, and his three children with Gracie are Korean American in a mostly White, Southern community. Again, though, there's not much here that's reflective of their cultural identity.
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Violence & Scariness
Plot revolves around a statutory-rape relationship between a 36-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy; 20 years later, they're still together, married with three children -- but they've faced consequences for the past (jail time, listed on the sex offender registry, scandal, public ostracism, loss of relationships with family, etc.). Inference to sexual assault to a child. Arguments, yelling.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Fairly graphic sex scene that shows a man's bare backside. Married couple snuggles and kisses. Infidelity. Actress pantomimes an intense moment of passion.
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Strong language includes "bitches," "s--tty," and a few uses of "f--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen teaches his father to smoke pot and get high. Smoking. Characters drink beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that May December is a melodrama from director Todd Haynes that's loosely based on the true 1990s story of teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau's sexual relationship with a student. The film explores how life might look for the pair a couple of decades down the line. Many questions are raised, but answers aren't really provided, especially as Mary Kay substitute Gracie (Julianne Moore) doesn't see herself as a predator, and her lover/victim/husband, Joe (Charles Melton), resents being viewed as a victim. But it's made clear that the significant age gap was illegal for a reason when they met, and they've suffered harsh consequences. A teen teaches a parent to smoke pot, and characters smoke cigarettes and drink beer. A somewhat graphic sex scene includes images of a man's bare backside. There are arguments and inferences of sexual assault. Strong language includes "bitches," "f--k," and more. Natalie Portman co-stars as the Hollywood actress who's been cast to play Gracie in a movie. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Todd Haynes cleverly, quietly challenges viewers not to judge this melodrama's once-scandalous couple. A 36-year-old in a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old? Monstrous! But a 59-year-old married to a 36-year-old for 20 years with three great kids and neighbors who adore them? Hmmmm, that's different ... or is it? By using Elizabeth and her probing questions as a vehicle to help viewers understand Gracie and Joe, Haynes allows "inquiring minds" the questions we'd all like to ask.
That said, his unusual choices for the movie's score -- it's adapted from the 1971 film The Go-Between -- sets up a tonal imbalance that may throw viewers off-balance. Serious moments and scene changes are marked with a music gong that's reminiscent of a soap opera (or, even more so, SNL's soap opera parody "The Californians"). Viewers may find themselves laughing through this unsettling drama in a way that feels intentional by Haynes but also somewhat inappropriate, given the charged subject matter. Just like reading tabloid fodder that exploits others' mistakes, when May December's credits roll, you may just realize you're not better for the time you spent on it.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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